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History Made with New Assembly Speaker

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Toni Atkins was sworn in as the new Speaker of the Assembly on Monday. She becomes the first openly gay woman to lead the lower house of the California Legislature. Photo courtesy California State Parks Dept.
PHOTO: Assemblywoman Toni Atkins was sworn in as the new Speaker of the Assembly on Monday. She becomes the first openly gay woman to lead the lower house of the California Legislature. Photo courtesy California State Parks Dept.
May 13, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - History is being made at the state Capitol again. Democratic Assemblywoman Toni Atkins was sworn in as the new Speaker of the Assembly on Monday, becoming the first openly gay woman to head the lower chamber of the legislature. She succeeds Democrat John Perez, the first openly gay lawmaker to hold the position.

Speaker Atkins emphasized the need to improve California's economy, including the passage of a Rainy Day Fund, and to have a strong water policy in the face of the drought.

"We have a long list, but it's got to start with the budget and making sure that we have the reserves, and then move forward and deal with what we're going to do with the water bond," Atkins said. "I think those things are immediately in front of us for various reasons."

Atkins begins her new duties just as Gov. Jerry Brown unveils the revised budget today. This May budget is a starting point for budget negotiations.

Atkins said she will be a leading voice on affordable housing, women's health, veterans and homelessness. She noted that California has some of the least affordable housing in the nation, with 135,000 homeless, including 25 percent of the country's homeless veterans.

"We can do better," Atkins said. "We can do better for our veterans, we can do better for Californians, and we need to be focused on providing housing. And again, it provides jobs, so I think it's a win-win. "

During her swearing-in ceremony, Atkins also acknowledged Republican Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, noting this is the first time in California history that either house of the legislature has had two women leaders.



Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA